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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pascal's Wager and Gambling with Sobriety - Part 2

Continuing to examine the chart, the line 'Belief' represents the increase in God's daily impact on a person's life (from the perspective of how the idea of God effects one's opinions, thoughts, emotions, etc.):

At the end marked atheist, the person's knowledge of God, and therefore God's perceivable impact on the person's moral life, is zero.  As we move along the line, various truths about God are revealed until one comes to the end of the line marked saint, where he has achieved an uninterrupted consciousness of God.  Of course, sainthood also includes a moral transformation: the closer one draws to God, the more his character is changed.

This is important to keep in mind for sobriety: the recovery of the addict necessitates a moral transformation.  Addiction by definition corrodes the addict's moral fiber, and so recovery requires a moral transformation.

This begs the question: can the addict recover and be morally transformed without God?

Pascal's Wager was one having to do with eternal life versus damnation: what's the worst outcome for a believer if there is no God (he loses his bet, but passes into nothingness and won't notice) versus an unbeliever if there is a God (he loses his bet, and must encounter God and explain himself).

There is another wager, one having to do with the social order: what are the predictable moral outcomes of atheism versus belief?

The gamble here is happening right now.  The bets traditionally have always been that a society must have a belief system, yet the modern Western movement has been to change the wager and bet that things will be better without common religion.  This has largely to do with abuses of religion and defective belief systems, but the assumption is that removing all religion will somehow make people better.

Moral definitions then pass from God to the individual.  This arrangement, of course, does not hold up under pressure when millions of people all try to interpret what is right and wrong, and so government, as a conglomeration of the people, ends up regulating both morality on a legal front (i.e. ethics) and on a personal level.  You may wonder how this works.  Very simple: whereas people once appealed to God for help, they now appeal to human institutions.

Remember that 'morality' really is about the standards we hold to in the face of our fears and desires.  Morality regulates our inner disposition and what attitudes are proper and improper.  While states have always regulated ethics (limits on our outward actions), morality has always been a religious affair.  Ethics tells us what is bad, but morality is about what is good.

Morality comes into play when we are frightened and need help.  Morality tells us what is acceptable to do in the face of a threat, and defines our expectations for salvation.  For example, when a ship is sinking, morality tells us whether we should risk our lives to get others off first.  Ethics would merely say not to block the passageways or throw fellow passengers out of the lifeboat.

These days, we expect human institutions to provide everything.  They offer 'salvation' to those in need.  But, this is a gamble, because not all human institutions are beneficent.  Just as there are 'bad religions' so there are also 'bad institutions' where those who run the institution either selfishly run the institution only for their own benefit, or they are incompetent.

So we have a wager between divine help or human help.  Which one will be more reliable?  Which one can meet our needs?  Ultimately, which bet will work when society is pressed, or when we individually are put to the test?

A genuine atheist must believe that only he, and those institutions that see themselves as having obligations over him, have the only abilities to help him.  There are no other options.

The saint believes that God, through the agency of either institutions or some other means, will come to his aid.  And so, we now come to the problem of addiction and the passions: where will your help come from when you are afraid? What's more, what will you do when those commonly-accepted sources of 'salvation,' be it God or a human institution, are sources of fear for the alcoholic?

So, another way to look at this line is that as one passes up the line, the agency of 'savior' moves gradually away from the individual to the Divine.  So, when we are certain we are unable to act on our own behalf, the one who has the locus of salvation further away from himself experiences fear in direct proportion to his perception of self-reliance.  If your locus of salvation is you, and you find that you alone cannot overcome your fear, then you are stuck with it.  However, if the locus of salvation is on God, then the responsibility for dealing with the fear falls on God and you will not sense a need to react.

The wager now becomes more about how do you predict men would better handle their fears... with or without God?

This is the wager of the agnostic alcoholic.  He must bet his life on one of two propositions, either the salvation of God or the salvation of self-will.  Every fear he encounters must settled by one of these two.

The passions (Pride, Lust, Sloth, Gluttony, Envy, Greed, & Anger) come into play when fear comes and the locus of salvation is on the individual, but the individual finds himself unable to save himself.  Atheism works great when things are going well, but how will you cope with your fears when you have no God or anyone else to help you?

Governments usually turn to violence when they have no hope that God will help them.  So do people, but most of that violence ends up turned against the self.

I apologize if this post rambles a bit, but I'm still processing all of this myself.

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